Men's Tennis Players with the Most to Prove in 2014
Even though awards and accolades for 2013 are still pouring in, the 2014 tennis season is mere weeks away.
Every player enters a new season with goals and pressure to play well. However, some have more to prove than others.
Young guns like Jerzy Janowicz and Milos Raonic shoulder the burden of high expectations. However, they have yet to reach the point in their careers where they are expected to win it all.
Perennial runners-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer, remain Slam-less. But by repeatedly losing in big matches, these players have lowered expectations, thus they have less to prove.
This list focuses on players who are expected to snag titles and hoist trophies. It includes those with a chip on the shoulder, an ax to grind or a monkey to fling off the back.
Sometimes the more a player accomplishes, the more he has to prove. These are the players with the most to prove in 2014.
6. Rafael Nadal
After an amazing year Rafael Nadal has already proven that he's recovered from his knee injury. He proved he could dominate on the hard courts as well as clay. He also proved he could reclaim the No. 1 ranking.
Yet Nadal, competitive as anyone, will want to prove that 2013 was more than a comeback. He will want to extend his reign at No. 1 and solidify his place among the greatests of all time.
5. Roger Federer
Despite being one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of sports, Federer enters 2014 with much to prove.
Mainly, he has to prove his career isn't over. Federer needs to prove that his 2013 slump was a setback and not a swan song. Nobody expects Federer, 32, to sweep the Slams. But he has to play better than he did in 2013 to silence the retirement talk.
A Grand Slam win would shut up naysayers. That's probably why Federer plans a schedule centered around peaking at the Slams.
4. Novak Djokovic
Like Federer and Nadal, Djokovic has proven he's a Hall of Fame player. He's won six Grand Slams and held the No. 1 ranking most of last year.
However, his main goal will be to win that elusive French Open title. The French Open for Djokovic is what the U.S. Open used to be to Nadal. It's the missing link to establishing well-rounded greatness.
Djokovic must also prove that he has an answer to the resurgent Nadal.
3. Andy Murray
Returning from back surgery, Murray must reestablish his place among the Big Four. He has two Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal.
However, his celebrity appears to have exceeded his accomplishments on the court. While Murray was recovering from back surgery and attending social events, Nadal and Djokovic were in an intense battle for No. 1.
Despite being included in the Big Four, Murray has some catching up to do when it comes to winning Slams and titles. In 2014, he must prove he is worthy of the hype.
2. Stanislas Wawrinka
Stanislas Wawrinka had the best year of his career in 2013. The reason he lands at No. 2 is that, despite strong showings in Grand Slams, Wawrinka always seems a few unforced errors away from making it to a final.
Wawrinka needs to show that he can weather the pressure in big matches against the big guns. Putting away the likes of Tomas Berdych is no longer enough. His win over Murray at the U.S. Open raised expectations. Now he has to prove he is ready to take the next step.
1. Juan Martin Del Potro
Juan Martin Del Potro needs to prove he is not a one Slam wonder.
When he upset Federer at the 2009 U.S. Open, many thought the then 19-year-old would be a fixture in Grand Slam finals. Instead, Del Potro battled a wrist injury and bouts with fatigue in long matches.
Now completely back from the injury, Del Potro has no excuse for constantly falling short. He wows the crowd with booming forehands. He pushes the best players to the brink. But now he has to prove he can win it all, again. He can no longer just stay close. He has to close out matches against Djokovic, Nadal and Murray.
Anything less than at least one Slam title will be considered a disappointing season. In 2014, Del Potro has more to prove than anyone else on tour.